Irish-owned data centre owner and operator, Echelon Data Centres and green energy developer SSE Renewables have announced an agreement to develop a joint 220kV substation at the Avoca River Business Park, Arklow, Ireland.
The new infrastructure will facilitate the development of Ireland’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, Phase 2 of Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coast of Co. Wicklow with an export capacity of 520MW, and Echelon’s DUB20 (Arklow) 100MW data centre.
The joint initiative marks the first time in Ireland that an offshore wind farm and a data centre have agreed to develop grid infrastructure. The substation development is expected to require an investment of around €50m to deliver. Upon completion, the proposed offshore wind farm and data centre will both directly connect to the Irish national grid via the new shared substation.
The landmark deal is an innovative step forward for the renewable energy and data centre sectors. Sharing grid infrastructure and locating data centres closer to renewable sources of generation such as offshore wind delivers on a key decarbonisation goal set out in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan to facilitate regionally-located data centres and minimise grid reinforcements. It also helps deliver a Climate Action Plan target of installing 1GW of offshore wind by 2025.
The development agreement will support the delivery of 250 new jobs for Arklow. This includes the creation of up to 80 new jobs during the construction of the substation. Upon completion of both the technology and renewable energy projects, the data centre will support 90 full-time operational roles while a further 80 full-time jobs will be created locally to support the day-to-day operation of the offshore wind farm.
Welcoming the initiative An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD said, “This announcement is a welcome boost for Arklow; it not only provides new job opportunities, it also places Arklow at the heart of the green tech sector. This collaboration between renewable energy and tech will ensure that key decarbonisation targets contained in the Climate Action Plan are met and is a model which could be rolled out in other communities across the country.
“I would like to pay tribute to SSE Renewables and Echelon – having identified an opportunity to share infrastructure to promote sustainability, they worked collaboratively to ensure their vision became a reality.”
Reflecting An Taoiseach’s support, Senator Pat Casey said: “This deal is another landmark for Arklow, for Irish wind power generation and for the Irish economy as a whole. Our immediate and pressing challenge is to meet the renewable energy goals set out in the Irish Climate Action Plan 2019, and this partnership between Echelon Data Centres and SSE Renewables showcases the future. It’s a future in which data centre facilities provide a constant demand for renewable power such as offshore wind and work with renewable energy providers to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure. The joint Echelon/SSE Renewables initiative also represents a big step forward on the journey to sustainably powered data centres.
“I have been assisting Echelon in the development of the Arklow data centre since the very beginning and I am delighted to see their enthusiasm, entrepreneurship and energy pay dividends. This initiative makes Arklow’s position in the County Development plan all the more important and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Council to secure this step change in the economic development of South Wicklow.”
Barry Kilcline, Director of Developments at SSE Renewables said: “This is a major innovation for the integration of renewables and data centres into Ireland’s national grid. Through this landmark agreement with Echelon Data Centres we will develop new shared grid infrastructure at Arklow that will facilitate the development of the next phase of the 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park, which we’re on track to deliver to help meet the Government’s 2025 target of 1GW of offshore wind, and to enable the connection of Echelon’s planned data centre for South Wicklow.
“The announcement is also great news for County Wicklow as it supports 250 new jobs for Arklow, including 80 new roles during the construction of the substation and 170 full-time, locally-based operational jobs on completion of both the wind farm and data centre developments.”
Niall Molloy, CEO of Echelon Data Centres said: “We’re delighted to be working with SSE Renewables on such a significant initiative – one which enables Ireland’s first large-scale offshore windfarm, contributing greatly to the country’s targets of delivering 1GW of offshore renewable energy by 2025 and 5GW by 2030, and facilitating the creation of 250 jobs locally.
“It is also a model for the future, where data centre facilities are located close to the source of renewable energy, providing a constant demand for the power and working with renewable energy providers to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure. The initiative represents meaningful progress on the road to cleanly and sustainably powered data centres.”
The 220kV substation would be developed and constructed on behalf of both developers by SSE Renewables. The development of the substation for joint use will be subject to SSE Renewables securing planning permission via a future planning application.
SSE Renewables is actively developing Phase 2 of Arklow Bank Wind Park which will be located in a lease area situated six to 13km off Ireland’s Co. Wicklow coastline, to the east of Arklow. The offshore wind farm has the potential to reduce Ireland’s annual carbon emissions by around 1%, offsetting over half a million tonnes of harmful CO2^.
Echelon Data Centres, which is developing a network of large-scale data centre campuses across Europe, is to construct a 45,000sq m (485,000 sq ft) data centre site at the Avoca River Business Park in Arklow, with a capacity of up to 100MW.